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Charters, School Closings Targeted in New Complaints From Civil Rights Group

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By guest blogger Arianna Prothero

Minority communities are unfairly targeted for school closures, according to complaints filed this week with the U.S. Department of Education's civil rights office and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy group based in Washington, filed three complaints Tuesday on behalf of a coalition of community and education justice organizations. The complaints allege that school closures and privatization in Chicago, New Orleans, and Newark, N. J., violated  Title VI of the landmark Civil Rights Act because they disproportionately affected African-American and Latino communities.

"In each of the cities where we filed Title VI complaints, African-American children are being uprooted, shuffled around, and ultimately sent to schools that are no better than the one that closed," Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis said in a statement.

Last school year, Chicago shuttered nearly 50 schools mostly located in the city's impoverished south and west sides. The massive downscaling brought months of protest and two federal lawsuits.

Advancement Projects' complaints also claim that schools in minority communities are targeted for privatization as school systems turn to  private organizations to manage a proliferating number of public charter schools. The group pointed to a New Orleans school district where only a handful of regular, district-run public schools remain as well as Newark where a plan to revamp struggling city schools calls for more charters in addition to school closures.

"Districts are shirking their responsibility to educate our children and instead are giving multimillion dollar contracts to companies to do the job. In each city, African-American students' hopes of equal educational opportunities are being dashed," said Dianis.

The Department of Education received similar complaints last year over school closings in New York City.

 

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